Social Justice Theology

A good place to start in a conversation about social justice is with the blessed Trinity because after all the Trinity is social and just. God-the Father, God-the Son and God- the Holy Spirit exists in community, a perfect relational society. The Trinity created humans to join their righteous/just society, but humans turned from God and became totally depraved by sin. In response, the Trinity initiated their plan of redemption which culminated in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. This drama of redemption is about the ultimate social justice work. A sacrificial work. A social act and a justifying act, forgiving humanity’s social sins and social injustices against God and others. Through Christ, a new social reality and a new humanity was created. Out of the bad social situation, new creation!

By the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ ministry is continued, transforming the new social entity (the Church) into a people who are “eager to do what is good” (Tit 2:14), into a people who “act justly” and “love mercy” (Mic 6:8), into a people of the social, just and peaceable kingdom of God. This kingdom social reality calls Christ followers to sacrificially live and serve like Jesus and turn away from socially unjust behaviors. It calls us “to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society”[1] This involves taking the whole gospel to the whole person to the whole world.

To participate in social justice apart from Jesus and the gospel is wanting the beauty and goodness of the kingdom, but without the King. This doesn’t work. John Stott wrote, “Good Samaritans will always be needed to succor those who are assaulted and robbed; yet it would be even better to rid the Jerusalem-Jericho road of brigands.”[2] Yes, the world would be better without bandits, but in our own efforts, we can not rid the injustice in our world. Only Christ and his gospel can transform humanity’s unjust hearts of stone. If any social justice cause is set above Christ and his gospel, then it is idolatry and all one’s social justice acts are like filthy rags. Christ and his atonement should be the foundation of one’s social justice acts.

Christ’s atonement is about sacrifice, enabling reconciliation on the vertical plane. Christians should sacrifice their lives as reconciling ambassadors on the horizontal plane. We should give of ourselves for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of others. Our sacrifice should be compelled by his sacrifice. Our sacrificial service should witness to the ultimate sacrificial servant. Social justice theology should be focused on the theology of the cross which should drive one’s concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society.                    


[1] “The Church and Evangelism” in The Lausanne Covenant https://www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant

[2] John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006), 285.